The Water Jug

There once sat a giant water jug in the corner of the plaza

of a tiny, wind-beaten, anywhere town.

The brown and green mottled jar

well over two meters in height

had been there for as long as anyone could remember;

and no matter the day, time, year, or generation,

the jug was always filled with water,

ever fresh and cool within its thick, clay walls.

A clean, wooden sipping ladle, soft to hold and handle,

tied to a braided rope of gem-colored ribbons,

always hung about the shiny brass spigot

found one-third the way up the vessel, at a height for all to reach.

Below this, sat a large stone trough,

which caught each precious drop,

and where all the town’s creatures came to sit and sip.

No one ever dared lay claim to be the one who filled the giant jar,

for all knew that to keep it thus, meant miles of travel

and toting to and from the nearest well.

“Such a blessing, indeed,” they would remark to each other as they drew from the tap,

“to have such a friend – or friends – as these!”

Some curious folk tried, here and there, to lift the jug

to see if its source was, perhaps, not a person, but a spring, or pipe.

But the jug wouldn’t budge.

And, once more, attentions would turn elsewhere –

away from the shiny, earthen jar that watered their gardens and helped make their broth;

cleansed and nourished them.

Its mysterious origin would fever the imaginations of the town’s newcomers,

but soon they too, would, without much thought,

take from its bounty as one takes a breath.

The years passed.

The town got bigger.

And the jug continued to give… as best it could.

No one noticed when the braided silk ribbon holding the ladle frayed and finally fell,

splitting the old, weatherbeaten, wood scoop in two.

The faded, unravelling rope blew away with the winds,

and the ladle pieces were soon buried in the dirt kicked up by another,

and another, and another at the spigot.

So it should come as no surprise that no one noticed the first crack –

a hairline near the top, by the lid (now missing its knob).

Or the second, at its base in the back.

And how could anyone have known

without ever lifting the high, heavy lid – long devoid of its handle –

that the jug was now only able to half-way fill?

More years passed and more people came to settle near

and depend upon the water jug in the corner of the old plaza,

not paying much mind that the spigot was getting harder to turn

and the water came in troubled spurts.

Because came it did,.

So, on they went with their lives.

While the cracks in the vessel grew long, and dark, and moist.

One afternoon, an elder from the town

(a sweet and gentle fellow with a crooked grin and wicked humor),

sat upon the old stone trough, scratching a scraggly, stray dog behind its ears,

filling his modest kettle,

when he felt a drop on his head.

He looked hopefully to the sky, but saw not a cloud,

when down came another.

Wiping the tear-sized drip from his eye, he stood atop the trough for a closer look

and there he discovered the crack,

now beginning to seep.

His old heart raced, as he began a thorough examination of the giant earthen jug,

soon discovering,

much to his own surprise,

not only dangerous weaknesses everywhere;

but its sad state of neglect.

“What has happened to thee, Old Friend?” sighed the elder

as he grabbed his kettle and turned toward home,

laden with dark thoughts of how the town would fare without it.

Early the next morning, as the sky began to brag,

the old man was already at the water jug with his bucket, trowel, and cement.

After mixing a small batch, he began the patchwork at the bottom,

and worked his way up.

At first, no one in the town took much notice,

but the old man didn’t mind. He was enjoying the work.

He felt useful, helpful – important for the first time in years.

But his work came to a halt as he struggled for some time

to reach some of the biggest cracks at the top of the great jug.

“May I?” a tall lady with bright blue hair finally asked,

setting down her cats, and picking up the trowel.

Before long, other folk began to gather at the water jug in the corner of the old town plaza,

bringing brushes and brass polish, flower pots and benches

– even a new knob for its lid.

It was when the lid was lifted for repair by two of the town’s strongest,

that the water was discovered to be a scant distance from dropping below the spigot,

instantly turning the spontaneous, happy gathering into a very different moment.

Folks began pointing fingers at each other for taking more than their share.

Everyone finding blame everywhere but home.

All the while,

the elder, who sat carving on the giant, bent trunk of an enormous Cottonwood tree,

remained silent…

until he wasn’t anymore.

“It seems to me,” he said a little louder each time,

until by the forth, fed up, he filled his old lungs and croaked

“IT SEEMS TO ME!…”

Someone in the crowd finally noticed and a slow hush came over the townsfolk.

“It seems to me,” repeated the elder, as he very slowly and deliberately closed his knife,

took up the newly carved ladle, shoved it in his pocket, and shuffled toward the jar,

“that each and every one of us has benefitted from what this precious jug has given.”

Nary a sole could disagree, but what could they do?

What control had they over its mysterious bounty?

“Each of us has to give,” said the old man sternly, “for this vessel needs filling.

Give what you can, if only a drop.

Give what you must, for the cracking to stop.

Give what you will for the water to rise.

For the jug to replenish.

For the jar to provide.”

But the townsfolk felt they had done quite enough

with the mending and flowers, and paint, and stuff,

so off they went, back to their shops and their homes and their lives,

having convinced themselves that the jug would continue to supply their needs.

The next morning, the town’s Postmaster went to the jar

to soak her stamp sponge

and turned the handle of the spigot to find not a single…

droplet…

dropped.

She turned the handle harder.

Still nothing.

She got down on her hands and knees

and crouching under the old, brass faucet, stuck her long, thin finger up the pipe

with the hopes of dislodging the obvious offender.

The scene couldn’t help but attract attention from the folks going about their business in the plaza,

and in just a few minutes a small crowd was once again gathered at the giant water jug.

The Postmaster rose with what dignity she could,

and without bothering to wipe the dirt from her hands or knees,

said to the many familiar faces before her, “It has nothing left to give.”

The crowd refused to believe her

and grabbing the nearest ladder, the two same strongest, once again climbed to its top,

removed its lid,

and looked within.

There was water.

The crowd collectively exhaled.

“But only at the very bottom of the jug!” heralded the powerful duo from above.

Panic began simmering.

The greedy began plotting.

And the air became electrified with fear.

Now the elder,

who had been calmly watching the scene from the very same spot as the day before,

shuffled toward the center of the crowd, which quieted quickly.

“Give what you can, if only a drop,”

he repeated from the day before.

“Give what you must, for the cracking to stop.

Give what you will, for the water to rise.

For the jug to replenish.

For the jar to provide.”

“Go to your homes and go to your hearts,”

he said looking into each and every set of eyes that would meet his gaze.

“Fill your cups, your buckets, your glasses, your tubs.

For it’s time to give back to this watering jug.”

The crowd hesitated at first,

scratching their heads,

milling about,

kicking at the dirt and the dust,

causing a small group nearby to begin coughing.

Seeing his mother having more and more trouble breathing, a young man ran to the jug,

and with no thought but of that very moment,

cupped his hand and turned the spigot.

The crowd moved toward the jar with a great thirst.

But,

as the Postmaster had stated previously,

the water jug had nothing left to give.

Coughing gave way to sighs amid silence.

“Give what you can,”

whispered the elder as he wandered through the crowd,

placing his hands gently upon the shoulders of his friends, neighbors and kin,

“if only a drop.

Give what you must, for the cracking to stop.

Give what you will, for the water to rise.

For the jug to replenish.

For the jar to provide.”

And with that the crowd scattered about,

then slowly filtering back

– some with only thimblefuls –

others with great, overflowing basins and bowls.

While still others disappeared from the town completely.

One by one,

each offering was poured into the old, patched jug,

eventually filling it to its brim.

With the heavy lid placed back on top, the remaining townsfolk watched silently

as the elder pulled from his pocket the beautiful new ladle he had carved.

Stepping to the shiny, brass spigot, the old man’s crooked fingers turned the handle with ease.

and he filled the large, wooden scoop with water.

Turning to the crowd with a grand and crooked grin,

he took a refreshing gulp

the passed it to the person closest him,

and on it went.

As the ladle, soft to handle and hold,

was passed to young and old,

rich and poor,

newcomers and natives,

it continued to fill with cool, clear water

for the next and the next and the next.

Until all in the town had sipped from it and then,

without a word,

quietly returned to their homes.

Now one would have thought the story ended here.

That the townspeople had learned their lesson

and the water jug would be tended to from then on.

But folks, like the elder, passed away,

or moved on,

and newcomers settled in around the great, brown and green mottled water jug

in the corner of the old plaza,

having never heard the cautionary tale.

And those who were there,

as most tend to do,

forgot.

So the cracks reappeared

and the water level dropped.

Until one kind soul felt a teardrop on their head,

and looked up.

Author: Anne Celano Frohna

I have been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil in hand and would not feel complete without it. And I actually made a meager living at it (and as an editor) for 25 years. I worked for newspapers and magazines, in graphic arts and advertising, and wrote several local history books. But I have also taught English in Japan, been a Nanny in Italy, worked in and for museums, was an Airbnb Superhost for four years, as well as an Etsy shop owner where I sold vintage items I found over the years of thrift and yard sales. After moving to Arizona with my family in 2010, I completed a series of different writing projects, including two books of creative non-fiction: Just West of the Midwest: a comedy (Based on journals I kept during my two years as an English teacher in rural Japan.) Within Close Range: short stories of an American Childhood (Short stories and poems about growing up as the middle of five children in suburban Chicago.) I've also written children's stories and continue to write short fiction, but have recently found my voice in poetry. This blog, however, is where my greatest passion comes alive. I am also a mother of two wonderful girls, Eva (23) and Sophia (21) and wife to one wonderful husband, Kurt.

One thought on “The Water Jug”

  1. Really very nicely done.
    Subtle & simple with no bs acrobatics.
    I particularly enjoyed the detail of the air becoming electric
    – that is a feeling I have only experienced once, but never forgotten –
    Ace!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: